New Series: How To DIY – Panelling

One subject this blog has never really covered is the mysterious art of DIY. I’m more of a ASETDI (ask someone else to do to it) frankly and while I have done my share of DIY over the years I’m no expert. I mean I’ve sanded floors and, on one occasion, The Mad Husband and I decided to tile the kitchen after returning from the pub one night … all I’m going to say it that it was a small splashback, the tiles were, fortunately, rustic-shaped with slightly wavy edges and when the plumber turned up the next day he was only speechless for a couple of minutes. So we made the decision that if we were working full time it would be better for our home if we PSETDI (paid someone else to do it).

DIY wall panelling by Melanie Lissack Interiors
DIY wall panelling by Melanie Lissack Interiors

However, we’re all aware of the cost of living crisis and, leaving money aside, the difficulty of even finding someone to come and do a job this side of the next Jubilee. And yet there are several small jobs that, with the right instructions (not mine clearly) are perfectly possible to DY and which can make a huge difference and bring a lot of satisfaction as well as saving some money. So, throughout June I am going to introduce you to the experts to show you some simple ideas such as recovering a lampshade, painting a window, installing panelling and applying (and crucially removing) tile stickers so you can bring in some small changes that will have a big impact and save you money in the meantime. Do add you own requests in the comments and if I can find the right experts we can continue into July.


DIY wall panelling by Melanie Lissack Interiors
DIY wall panelling by Melanie Lissack Interiors

Panelling is everywhere at the moment and it’s one of those design elements that is a classic that is having a moment. The key is to choose the right style for your home. If you live in a modern house then sticking Victorian or Georgian panels all over the walls won’t look right. Better to try simple tongue and groove – if you live in the country – it’s a more rustic look, or very simple box panelling if your house is in a more urban setting.

For advice on creating your own panelling I turned to Melanie Lissack, who is so clever at all forms of DIY and whose home has featured on these pages many times before. She also shared a great tip for making this easier and cheaper: one of the (other) side-effects of the cost of living is that the price of timber has shot up making many of these simple jobs even more expensive (all the more reason to try and learn to do some of them ourselves). So for these panels Mel used polymer which is lighter, easier to use and can be glued on rather than using tack nails. Sticking them on also removes one layer of work as the hole where the nails go in has to be filled and sanded before it can be painted.

You can read her instructions in full here but note that you will need either a mitre box and a handsaw (this is to cut the corners so they fit together) or, she suggests, investing in an electric mitre saw.

DIY wall panelling by Melanie Lissack Interiors
DIY wall panelling by Melanie Lissack Interiors

The reason she chose panelling in this room is that she felt when the walls were painted all in one colour the room felt a little bland, while wallpaper felt too “busy” in what should be a calming space. By choosing panelling, she hit upon a scheme that was subtle but also added interest.

I think it looks great and I could be tempted to have a go myself. What do you think?

Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. I am not a decorative pillow person, but I am transfixed by those floral pillows… please, where might they be found?

  2. Really lovely paneling. I’m thinking about how to translate some one the features over to a tiny house or small cabin. There’s less free wall space but I think it’s possible!

  3. This idea is a stroke of genius Kate. So many of your readers keen to have a go but not trusting themselves.
    Melanie makes the projects look straight forward and of course her results are to be applauded.

    I’d like to know how to make a linen weight, plain valence, pleated at each corner for a King Sized bed please.

  4. Can I suggest that you also look at stencilling as a really cost effective decorating technique? I think it’s had a really bad rap, but it can actually create some really beautiful schemes. It’s easy and cheap. @stencil.karma

  5. I absolutely love DIY and usually have at least 5 projects on the go! Panelling is on my list because some walls in my holiday house are irreparably damaged by old sea flooding. I will have to use sheet panelling though which is messier and more difficult unfortunately.

  6. What also works well here is that Melanie has done all the walls – making it much more classic and timeless, and makes you wonder if it’s original. I really hate the current trend of just panelling one wall as a feature – even more than I hate one wall of wallpaper as a feature – it totally removes any possibility of it being an authentic original feature of the house and just looks like the trend that it is and it’s way too overdone already.

  7. Honestly, this is lovely, an absolutely gorgeous room. But unless you have a great eye for balance and restraint, solid cutting and other DIY skills, and the patience to put in all the prep and the finish work, it won’t look good, especially close up, and it will date instantly.

    Excited for this new series though, thank you!

    1. A great project panelling project for beginners is to start with a plain 4 door wardrobe. It will make it more visually interesting and is a great way to learn panelling without embarking on an entire room.

      1. Ooh yes, totally agree! Are you the Melanie from the project – if so, beautiful home!

  8. I have twin divan bases with headboards which are currently brown but which I want to reupholster. I have had a roll of blue fabric for a year now but I just don’t know where to start! I’d love advice on doing it.

  9. This is an excellent article. This is, in my opinion, one of the best posts ever written. Your work is excellent and inspiring. Thank you very much.

  10. a truly gorgeous space and I love the detail of the flowers on the wall above the chair. Everything is calm and her colour scheme is amazing and has obviously been thoroughly thought through. The panelling is a great idea but what strikes me is the balance. The bedside table in the last picture is far too low to balance with the other side. It needs a taller lamp that is not TOO tall or intrusive but gives a bit of height.

    But what I really want to know is where did she get that floral cushion? It is stunning.

  11. The panelling really makes the bedroom without creating an over busy space. I’m a big fan of Melissa’s DIY skills and projects – she is amazing.

    1. Hi Lesley I made the cushion myself. The fabric is called Wild Grasses by Earthed. Sorry you do not like the styling but this photo was set up to show off the panelling!

      1. Hi Melanie. You have an enormous talent and I was being picky as I usually am!!!! I love the styling but I always have a studied balance chez moi. It is always good to see someone else’s style. I especially love (apart from the cushion) the details on the wall; particuarly the flowers above the chair which is a gentle and genius touch.

        thanks for the info on the cushion. It is glorious. I have made a note!!

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